R v Helfer, 2021 ONCJ

Steven Helfer has a history of domestic violence and animal abuse. Following an altercation with his mother in 2014, Helfer plead guilty to criminal harassment, assault with a weapon, break & enter, and beating his dog. He was sentenced to 2-years incarceration, 3-years probation, and a 25-year prohibition from owning animals. Read more about the case on the NCPAC Case Law Database.

In Spring 2021, Helfer went back before the ONCJ in Ottawa. He plead guilty to breach of probation, breach of no contact order, resist arrest, unlawfully in a dwelling, assault, and breach of animal prohibition order (multiple rabbits and birds).

After another altercation with his mother, Helfer assaulted his mother and her boyfriend. When police arrived, they found multiple rabbits and ducks on the premises, which Helfer’s mother indicated belonged to Helfer. The health of the animals was not noted by police.

The court accepted a joint submission on sentencing, 12-months incarceration (minus 48-days pretrial credit), 18-months probations. In this situation, the Crown urged the judge to give a specific sentence for the breach of animal prohibition. Of the 12-month carceral sentence, 49-days were attributed to the breach of animal prohibition charge.

R v Robert, 2018 ONSC 545

Facts / Background: This was a hearing of a Pre-Trial Charter Application. There were two accused individuals who were facing indictment for 34 counts of inflicting pain, suffering and injuries to dogs. The two accused allegedly ran a dog fighting “business” and 31 dogs were seized from their property (including pit bulls which in the area are a banned dog breed). There were also weapons and narcotic seized.

The two Charter arguments claimed (1) a violation of s. 11(b) by unreasonable delay in the trial, and (2) a violation of s. 8 by unreasonable search as seizure. They sought (1) a stay of proceedings and (2) exclusion of evidence. Only the 11(b) claim is discussed here.

Analysis: Looking at the Jordan principles of delay, the timeline from the arrest to the last day of trial for the two accused was 946 days. The judge found some of the crown’s reasoning to be inadequate and that the delay was unjust.

Judgement: The judge found that the s. 11(b) Charter rights of the accused has been breached, and pursuant to s 24(1) of the Charter, all the charges against the two accused were stayed.

R v Vanderwater, 2017 BCPC File 169032-2-C

Vandewater was transporting a friends dog which was attached to his bicycle. While he was riding he did not notice that the dog was being dragged. The dog suffered abrasions to his paws which left bloody paw prints down the street.

Originally this offence was proceeding under the Criminal Code, however it was determined that the offence was not willful and therefore was pursued under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Vandewater was fined $250 payable within 6 months, and was given a 2 year prohibition from owning animals. This was a joint submission from Crown and defence.

R v Sanaee, 2016 ABCA 289

Sanaee was the owner/operator of a dog daycare & boarding facility. Witnesses testified that on two occasions, they saw the Accused using cattle prods to ‘train’ dogs. The Accused also advised customers to buy cattle prods for at-home behavioural training.

The trial judge found that although expert witness testimony was helpful, they did not need the testimony to find that electric shocks with cattle prods cause unnecessary pain and suffering to dogs. The trial judge imposed a 6-month sentence, concurrent of the two charges, and a 5-year animal prohibition.

On appeal from conviction, Sanaee argued that the trial judge improperly relied on the expert testimony, and failed to properly consider the defence of ‘colour of right.’ Both grounds failed, and the appeal was dismissed.

R v Garvin, 2021 ONCJ

Garvin was arrested in January 2021 for various offences, including uttering threats to his parents, possessing an illegal firearm, and killing his nine-month-old puppy named Bane. In May 2021, 22-yeaar-old Garvin pled guilty, and an agreed statement of fact was submitted to the Court.

In April 2019, after threatening the lives of his family members, Garvin’s father co-signed a lease and Garvin moved into an apartment alone. He then acquired two dogs, Rudy  in October 2019, and Bane (named after the Batman villain) in July 2020. Garvin told his father that he intended to train both dogs to be aggressive attack dogs, and quickly began using extreme tactics to make dogs aggressive. In August 2020, Garvin became irritated that Bane was not obeying him properly, and began threatening the dog’s life.

By October 2020, neighbours could hear that Garvin was beating Bane, and called PAWS (the Ontario Provincial Animal Welfare Service). Three days later an inspector attended and left a notice on Garvin’s door. The complaint was inspected but no charges were laid. Sometime in December 2020, Garvin’s parents took Bane to a veterinary clinic, where surgery was necessary to treat a stab wound. Head trauma was also noted, but no report to authorities was made. Garvin was enraged that his parents took Bane, and continued to send threatening texts.

In January 2021, multiple neighbours called 911, police, and PAWS reporting that Bane was being severely beaten in Garvin’s apartment. All agencies refused to send immediate help. A few days later, Garvin’s mother called the police for a wellness check. Only then did authorities enter the apartment and found Bane’s deceased body in the bathroom. A necropsy revealed several injuries including significant rib bruising, fluid in Bane’s lungs, multiple skull fractures, brain and spinal bruising, a ruptured liver, and abdominal fluids.

Garvin was arrested and plead guilty to nine offences, including 2 counts of causing pain and suffering to Bane, uttering threats to kill Bane, possession of a prohibited firearm (sawed-off shotgun), criminal harassment against his parents, mischief, and breach of non-communication order. At sentencing the Crown sought a 6-year carceral sentence, and the defence sought a 2-year carceral sentence.

The judge sentenced Garvin to 5-years incarceration, which after pre-sentence custody credit was applied, leaves Garvin with 45-months incarceration remaining. Out of the 5-year sentence, 2-years were calculated for the offences related to Bane. He received 2 years for causing the death of Bane, 6 months concurrent for stabbing Bane and 6 months concurrent for uttering threats against both dogs. Garvin was also given a lifetime animal prohibition.

R v Dennison, 2021 ONCJ

Corey Dennison had been evicted from his apartment. When cleaners entered, they found a flash drive full of homemade videos of cat torture. They gave the flashdrive to police.

Dennison, a 31 year-old resident of Cornwall, Ontario, plead guilty to one count related to the abuse of 16 cats. Dennison searched and bought kittens online through apps such as Kijiji, recorded himself torturing the kittens (including breathlessness), killed the kittens afterward, and disposed of the bodies. Dennison made approximately 200 animal crush porn videos, and took sexual pleasure from making and watching them. During the proceedings, he was diagnosed with zoosadism, where an individual gets sexually aroused by cruelty to animals.

At sentencing, the Crown sought a carceral sentence of 18-month to 2-years. The Judge sentenced Dennison to 2-years less a day (20 months after credit applied), 3-years probation, and a lifetime animal prohibition.

R v Dondale, 2017 SKPC 58

The accused, Dondale (“D”), raised chickens, cattle, and horses on his property in the Rural Municipality of Torch River. The Saskatchewan SPCA (SSPCA) received a complaint that D was not adequately caring for his animals. The severe neglect included: inadequate food, water, or shelter; inappropriate ventilation, heating, lighting, and ease of cleaning; dangerous levels of Ammonia; and lack of veterinary care.

Over 2 years, one animal protection officer and a veterinarian attended the property on 6 occasions. D did not follow any of the SPCA recommendations or directives, and was eventually charged with 2 counts of causing distress under section 4 of The Animal Protection Act and 2 counts of causing unnecessary pain, or suffering, under section 445.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.

Issue of Crown Election: The defence disputed the charges, claiming that the D cannot be found guilty of any charge that fell outside the six-month charging timeframe. However, the judge quickly dismissed this argument, as all charges cited dates within the six-month window.

The Court heard from three Crown witnesses and found them to be credible. After reviewing the years of neglect, D was found guilty on all four charges. Accused convicted.

R v James, 2017 YKTC 72

This was a sentencing judgment following a guilty plea.

James (“J”) is alleged to have maimed a dog under section 445 of the Criminal Code. He has PTSD and was intoxicated at the time of the incident. He has no recollection of the incident. He was said to be attempting suicide because of the drugs.

The charge is set to be inherently aggravated in nature and there are no mitigating factors. J also has an extensive record dating back to Youth Court, including violent offences. However, Gladue factors are dominant in his case as he has suffered significant trauma in his life and is a member of the First Nations. Despite this, the primary conditions are still denunciation and deterrence balanced with rehabilitation and support, especially as J is young.

J pleaded guilty. The judge accepted this as a mitigating factor.

Ultimately, the judge concluded a jail sentence was needed, but reduced due acknowledged mitigating factors.

Sentence for animal cruelty: 60 days in jail with credit for 30 days J spent in remand at the rate of 1.5 for each day, which equals 45 days. Thus, J only needs to serve 15 more days. $100 assessment for Victims of Crime Fund. 12 month Probation with conditions. 12 month animal prohibition.

Additional sentencing handed down with respect to s.145(5)(b) (failing to report to show up for court) and s.145(3) (ailing to report to bail supervisor). Additional conditions also attached with respect to post-release and with respect to rehabilitation.

R v Krajnc, 2017 ONCJ 281

This case is often referred to as the “Pig Trial 1″ which garnered much media exposure.

The accused, Ms. Krajnc (”K”), was charged under section 430(1)(c) of the Criminal Code after giving water to pigs in a tractor trailer out side Fearman’s Pork Slaughterhouse in Burlington. K was giving the pigs water as part of her regular activism with The Save Movement.  The trailer with the pigs stopped at a red light. The protesters, including K, took advantage to interact with the pigs – something they did routinely. K took the opportunity to give at least one pig water. The trailer driver got out and had a rude interaction with K before driving off. This interaction was filmed. The trailer driver then phoned the employer and someone called the police.

K is alleged to have caused mischief by giving the pig an “unknown liquid”, which is created a foreseeable risk that the slaughterhouse may refuse to accept the pigs. Ultimately, court did not find K guilty as it was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that K interfered, or that she did so willfully. The charge was thus dismissed.

Interestingly, the defence argued that the pigs were not property but persons as a “person” did not equal a “human”. The judge dismissed this argument and confirmed that pigs were property.

The judge also explored legal justification for her actions. Here, the defence asked the judge to “be on the right side”, equating this case (and K) with the causes and actions of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Susan B. Anthony. The judge noted the heavy public and media attention on the case -specifically noting how the charge and the resulting process gave K and her group the attention they desired to bring awareness to their cause.

The judge also did not dismiss that the pigs were in some sort of distress, but found that evidence was not proffered indicating the degree of distress was outside the level contemplated by governing regulations.

Accused acquitted.

R v Nault, 2017 ABPC 129; 2019 ABPC 37; 2020 ABPC 26; 2020 ABPC 27

R v Nault, 2017 ABPC 129 (Sentencing)

Background / Facts: Accused was intoxicated and – using gasoline – set fire to the duplex where he lived with his ex-girlfriend at the time. When firefighters attended, they were able to rescue two dogs who were suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. The Accused himself was located in the basement with burns on his legs. Accused charged with 7 offences, including arson, weapons charges, and causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

“Causing unnecessary suffering to animals is a general intent offence for which intoxication short of automatism is not available as a defence. The actus reus is causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. The mental element requires unlawful and wilful performance of the illegal act. I see no reason why the principles enunciated by the SCC in Tatton, ought not to apply to this offence as well. The evidence of the firefighters who rescued the two dogs, and the evidence of Sheena McMillan (ex-girlfriend) who saw the dogs later at the SPCA, confirm their pain, suffering and injury. Expert evidence in this regard is not necessary to prove these charges.”

Judgement: The judge found the accused guilty of all charges.

R v Nault, 2019 ABPC 37 (Appeal)

Background / Facts: Mr. Nault now alleges that the trial judge used the ex-girlfriend’s out-of-court statements to bolster the credibility of her testimony and thereby erred.

Judgement: The judge allowed the appeal and called for a new trial.

R v Nault, 2020 ABPC 26 (Re-Trial Voir Dire)

Regarding the contumacious admission of the 911 phone call, the vior dire judge found the call to be admissible under traditional res gentae or spontaneous statement exceptions to the hearsay rule.

R v Nault, 2020 ABPC 27 (Re-Trial Decision)

Accused ultimately found guilty of setting the fires and causing the digs unnecessary pain and suffering.